Tuesday Oct 04, 2005

Perception vs. Conception

In his 2005 presidential address to the American Philosophical Association, Hubert Dreyfus draws on a large number of sources to clarify the distinction between perception and conception.

We're in the world primarily as perceiving bodies.

Dreyfus suggests further research needs to be conducted both by the analytical philosophers and the phenomenologists in order to better disclose how conceptual thinking arises from coping action and perceptual experience.

Given the availability of rich descriptions of perceptual affordances and of everyday know-how, however, couldn’t analytic philosophers profit from pursuing the question of how these nonconceptual capacities are converted into conceptual ones — how minds grow out of being-in-the-world — rather than denying the existence of the nonconceptual?

To demonstrate the subtlties of this question, he reviews how experts become experts, and what it means to act expertly. (See section IV of his APA presidential address.)

While infants acquire skills by imitation and trial and error, in our formal instruction we start with rules. The rules, however, seem to give way to more flexible responses as we become skilled. We should therefore be suspicious of the cognitivist assumption that, as we become experts, our rules become unconscious. Indeed, our experience suggests that rules are like training wheels. We may need such aids when learning to ride a bicycle, but we must eventually set them aside if we are to become skilled cyclists. To assume that the rules we once consciously followed become unconscious is like assuming that, when we finally learn to ride a bike, the training wheels that were required for us to be able to ride in the first place must have become invisible. The actual phenomenon suggests that to become experts we must switch from detached rule-following to a more involved and situation-specific way of coping.

Indeed, if learners feel that they can act only if they have reasons to guide them, this attitude will stunt their skill acquisition.

Monday Sep 26, 2005

The Freedom We Have

People hardly ever make use of the freedom which they have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation.

Søren Kierkegaard

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